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18 Apr 2023

How to ensure benefits effectively meet employees’ diverse needs 

Employee benefits are only effective if they meet the diverse needs of individuals, rather than being constrained by a one-size-fits-all template.

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REBA’s Gender-Specific Benefits Research 2023, together with Peppy, highlights that while there are more female-identifying employees than ever in the workplace, employee benefits and wellbeing strategies originally designed for a traditional, male-identifying, full-time workforce persist. 

That mismatch between strategies and benefits and current workforce demographics has driven pay and pensions gaps, loss of senior female talent and has limited opportunities for parents.

Female employment rates 

The female employment rate in the UK has risen significantly from 55% in 1975 to 72% in 2022. We asked respondents about the main reasons for offering or considering gender-focused health strategies. The key reasons support broad organisational goals, such as improving the overall wellbeing of the workforce, being competitive as an employer of choice, and workforce DEI and employee engagement. However, there is less support at organisational level for gender-specific objectives, such as closing the gender pay gap.

Gender-focused HR risks 

Being able to attract and retain female talent is a current risk for the majority of businesses (62%). This echoes findings from our DEI Benefits Research 2022, which found that 81% of businesses lack diversity at leadership level and 60% struggled with attracting and retaining female talent. 

While more employers are recognising the impact of the menopause on females’ career development and opportunities at work, there is less support for other aspects of gender-focused healthcare, such as fertility and common female health conditions that affect females earlier in their career. These will also contribute to the challenge of attracting and retaining females.

The great can’t – retirement 

Economic inactivity among the over-50s is still higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic. However, research from the Office for National Statistics showed that only around a quarter of economically inactive 50- to 59-year-olds have retired. Almost one in five (19%) said that stress was a factor in not working, and 17% cited not feeling supported at work, suggesting there is more that employers can do to support and retain older colleagues of both genders. 

Employers are concerned that in the longer-term all employees will struggle to retire on financial grounds, but this is particularly acute for females. Almost half of businesses see females’ inadequate retirement savings as a current or future risk, so addressing this should be a priority for any gender-focused benefits strategy.

Large companies are particularly aware of the risk that both male and female retirement pressures pose.

This research clearly demonstrates that employers need to realign their strategies and benefits to their current workforce demographics to ensure that all employers, regardless of gender or age, are fully supported.